I recently engaged in a debate with a member of my congregation who works in the business sector and used to work for a very large corporation. We were discussing what moral responsibility companies have to the communities in which they are situated. I argued that businesses should be heavily involved in community development work. He argued that businesses should focus on what they do: business.
To see his side of the argument, I will concede that businesses do a lot by their very being. They provide jobs. The generate tax revenue. And, in the case of locally owned businesses, there is a greater chance that profits will be reinvested in the local economy. However, he did also mention that his company held "volunteer days" where employees could be paid for a day of work spent volunteering in the community.
This debate aside, I want to lift up those businesses in our community that take more than a passive role in giving back to the community.
My favorite coffee shop, Muddy's, is located just steps from the UMKC campus in Kansas City. A significant percentage of Muddy's income comes from UMKC students who study there or who grab a cup of coffee on their way to class. Muddy's recently endowed a scholarship at UMKC. They dedicate a percentage of their earnings on sales of some items to increase the endowment for this scholarship.
Another example of a business that gives back is the Whole Foods store located at 91st and Metcalf. Like our monthly Donate-the-Plate Sundays (see tomorrow), they give a percentage of their earnings from one day a month to a local charity. The cynic in me wishes they would disclose what percentage of their monthly profits they give to charity. On the other hand, contributing around $200,000 to local charities over the years that they have been doing this is a lot better than contributing nothing.
Practice: Do business at a store that gives back to the community as a gesture of gratitude for their commitment to the community that supports them.
I'm sure there are many more stores I could name. If you have suggestions, leave them in the comment section below.